6/26/07 – In an interview with the Korea Times, violinist Joshua Bell shares the news that he is drawn to composition and, in fact, his first solo violin sonata will come out in 2008.
6/25/07 – The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Constantino Scudiere, a longtime lawyer for the state and a talented violinist, has died at 99. “Music was among Scudiere's first loves. Before embarking on a legal career, he played violin in a pit band - a group of musicians that provided music for silent movies. But when dialogue was incorporated into motion pictures, Scudiere was suddenly looking for a new career. ‘He lost his job because they came up with this newfangled thing called “talkies”,' said P aul Scudiere, Constantino's only son.”
6/23/07 – Violinist Dara Morales will be heading to Philadelphia from Salt Lake City to assume the post of assistant principal second of the Philadelphia Orchestra, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Her husband, cellist Jesus Morales, will become principal cello of Philadelphia's Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and will take care of the couple’s infant daughter. The pair just performed “Morales vs. Morales,” a farewell recital that acknowledges Jesus’ love of boxing.
6/22/07 – The Boston Globe reports: “Efrain Guigui, 81, a former conductor of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, died Monday in Los Angeles from complications of cancer, said his son, Martin. Mr. Guigui led the orchestra from 1974 to 1989, notably taking the orchestra on a tour of all of Vermont's 251 towns to celebrate the group's 50th anniversary. During his tenure, Mr. Guigui, a clarinetist, was honored with the Alice Ditson award from Columbia University, which is considered to be the conductors' equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. In 1989, the Vermont Council on the Arts presented him with the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts ... After leaving Vermont, Mr. Guigui did guest conducting in South America and started a youth orchestra in Mexico, his son said. He was invited to conduct in many places, including the Juilliard School in New York.”
6/25/07 - Musicians of the Pasadena Symphony are protesting plans by the orchestra to merge with the Pasadena Pops Orchestra. The musicians union charges of unfair labor practices and grievances, reports the Los Angeles Times.
6/23/07 - The dispute between musicians and management of the Omaha Symphony is ratcheting up, reports the Omaha World-Herald. The musicians claim that the salary of the orchestra's CEO rose an average of 20% over the past three years, as the musicians were held to a 2-3% bump over the same period. The orchestra management acknowledges that its CEO's pay is nearly twice that of some comparable ensembles, but says that much of the raise came through incentive pay.
Other Music News
6/26/07 – The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports: “Classical music disappeared from Milwaukee radio today as WFMR-FM (106.9) flipped to smooth jazz. It's part of a chain reaction that started with WKTI-FM (94.5) dumping its morning show to target younger listeners, which led WJZI-FM (93.3) to drop smooth jazz to target disenfranchised WKTI listeners. Now it's WFMR's turn. General manager Tom Joerres explains that the switch came because of the ‘opportunity’ presented by WJZI's format flip. ‘We gave it a 10-year run,’ says Joerres of the classical music format, a rarity for commercial stations. ‘The average audience on ‘FMR is 60-plus.’ ” The article adds: “In the first-quarter Arbitron radio ratings, among the 25-to-54 group, WFMR was in 22nd place, tied with sports-talker WSSP-AM (1250), while WJZI was in 14th. Among all listeners 12 and older, WJZI was tied for 11th place with WQBW-FM (97.3), better known as ‘The Brew.’ WFMR was in 17th.”
6/24/07 – But the radio news in Washington is much better, reports the Washington Post: "WETA's return to classical this January after a two-year experiment with news and talk is looking like a ratings winner: The station (90.9 FM) saw its audience more than double in the first Arbitron report since the format change. And, equally important for perennially cashapped public radio, the size and number of listener donations to the station soared with the switch back to classical."
6/24/07 – The Dallas Morning News contained a profile of Kris Chesky, a trumpeter and scholar who studies hearing loss and stress injuries in musicians. “At the University of North Texas Center for Music and Medicine, he helps musicians with playing-related health problems like hearing loss. He's published studies on the wrist impairments of clarinet players, the painful hands of pianists and the damaged mouths of trumpeters. And he's using technology to measure the exact sound levels classical musicians expose themselves to. As many as 50 percent of music professionals suffer at least some hearing loss, according to a UNT survey. A recent Northwestern University study found that almost all incoming freshman music majors already have a playing-related physical ailment, Dr. Chesky says.” The article adds: “Part of Dr. Chesky's mission is to inform the music education industry – from elementary music teachers to graduate programs – that it isn't too late. The human ear can withstand 85 decibels of sound, about the volume of a factory, for eight hours at a time. By contrast, 100 decibels, or about the sound of a subway car, can start to damage the ear after only 15 minutes. Then the ear needs rest.”
7/17/07 – Violinist Karen Gomyo will solo with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. From the Top host and pianist Christopher O’Reilly will appear on the same program. Gomyo's summer season also includes appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra July 13 and San Francisco Symphony July 19.
6/23/07 – Violinist Rachel Barton Pine performed a recital at the gala celebration for the 50th anniversary of the United Church of Christ in Hartford, CT. Barton Pine notes: “During the 8:00 hour that evening, I will give a short speech about my faith journey and perform my own virtuosic variations on Happy Birthday.” Then, beginning on June 24, she will spend the week teaching and performing at Mark O’Connor’s Tennessee Fiddle Camp.
6/23/07 - The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio performed the final concert of the 2007 Hudson Valley Chamber Music Circle series. Violist Michael Tree and clarinetist Ricardo Morales were their guests. The series was launched 57 years ago with the assistance of Emil Hauser, then a member of the Bard College faculty and original first violinist of the Budapest Quartet. Violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson are the series’ current artistic directors.
6/20/07 – According to Film Music Magazine, Tom Lee has “apparently been reelected president of the American Federation of Musicians (the primary musicians' union in North America,) a post he has held since 2001. Lee's reelection had been somewhat in question, as there has been much dissension among union members concerning his leadership in recent years. Particularly aggrieved have been West Coast-based recording musicians, who made a direct attempt to run Lee out of office at this week's AFM conference in Las Vegas.”
6/20/07 – The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Maurice Wolfson, a violinist whose 40-year career in the Cleveland Orchestra included performances under four music directors, has died at 95. “Wolfson joined the orchestra in 1945 following an audition for Erich Leinsdorf… He never attended college. Instead, he studied philosophy and poetry on his own and composed. ‘He pushed himself with natural talent, because he didn't have the opportunity of conservatory training’, [his daughter] said. ‘He played from his heart’."
6/19/07 – The Chicago Sun-Times reports on the Juilliard String Quartet’s Ravinia performance: “About midway through the Juilliard String Quartet's Tuesday night performance of Bartok's String Quartet No. 3, cellist Joel Krosnick snapped a string and had to head backstage to replace it. As he returned to his chair on the stage of the Ravinia Festival's Martin Theatre, first violinist Joel Smirnoff turned to the audience and said, ‘Since this work is such a taut entity, we will play it again from the start.’ What a perfect description of a complex, challenging work, and what a treat for the audience!
6/19/07 – PlaybillArts.com reports that Italian cellist Mario Brunello, accompanied by what must have been the world's most devoted audience, climbed 4,500 vertical feet to the summit of Japan's Mount Fuji last weekend (with his cello,) and then played a recital of solo Bach on the mountaintop.
6/6/07 – The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Mary West, a Minneapolis violin teacher who once played at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, died of cancer in her daughter's home in St. Paul at 97. The daughter estimates that her mother taught 45 hours of lessons a week until three months before she died: ‘Music was her whole life’. V.com member Jenni Volby, who informed us of West’s death, notes that her teacher studied with Sevcik: “As a violinist, to imagine studying the exercises of Sevcik with the man himself seemed so unreal!”
6/25/07 - The Sonora Strings, an advanced touring group of a private Suzuki string school in Madison, Wisc., will return home from a week-long tour of Costa Rica. The tour was led by Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Maria Rosa Germain.
6/17/07 – The San Antonio Express-News has laid it on the line regarding the San Antonio Symphony: “San Antonio, Texas, is a huge city by American standards, and yet, its orchestra is the very definition of small time, with stagnant wages, an undersized complement of musicians, and a board that seems either uninterested or incapable of raising even the bare minimum that the organization needs to avoid crisis every few years. The board's timidity indicates economic leadership that doesn't have the will, energy or ambition to lead -- that likes to claim the title of a major city but doesn't want to work very hard to make it so.”
6/14/07 - The Virginian-Pilot (Richmond) notes that the Buffalo Philharmonic has reached a settlement with a former oboist who had been claiming that anti-gay discrimination was involved in his dismissal from the orchestra. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. A hearing of the dispute, scheduled for next week before the New York State Division of Human Rights, has been canceled. This paper covered the story because Buffalo music director Joann Falletta also leads the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
6/17/07 – Reuters ran an interesting article assessing the continuing impact of the Tchaikovsky Competition, which kicked off on 6/13, noting that its prestige has fallen dramatically. "Around 200 young pianists, violinists, cellists and singers from 34 countries will perform over the next two weeks before juries of top musicians in Moscow's grand but run-down Conservatory, hoping to become the virtuosos of the future. Organizers hope that more entrants, increased sponsorship, open voting and more prestigious juries will return some of the luster the four-yearly competition enjoyed prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991."
6/19/07 – The second round of the violin portion of the Tchaikovsky Competition is now underway, with 13 violinists surviving the first cut. They are, in order of their first-round appearance:
1. Nikita Borisoglebskiy (Russia)
2. Yuki Manuela Janke (Germany)
3. Erik Schumann (Germany)
4. Nikki Chooi (Canada)
5. Andrey Baranov (Russia)
6. Mai Suzuki (Japan)
7. Park Ji-yoon (Republic of Korea)
8. Wang Zhijiong (China)
9. Sergey Ostrovsky (Israel)
10. Yoon Soyoung (Republic of Korea)
11. Shin Hyun-Su (Republic of Korea)
12. Mayuko Kamio (Japan)
13. Artyom Shishkov (Belarus)
For more updates, visit the Tchaikovsky Competition website.
6/17/07 – Violinist Alex DePue played an open mic night Nov. 11 at Lestat's, a tiny San Diego club that seats just 50. But his performance of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was filmed and somebody put it up on YouTube. Now he's famous, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It got 80,000 hits in the first week. Now, it's up to over 781,000 hits on YouTube alone. If you include the other Web sites that have posted it, like break.com and iFilm.com, and add them up, we've had 1.5 million viewings."
6/20/07 – Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri Quartet, will play the first of two recitals in Lancaster, Pa. He will also sign copies of his memoir, Violin Dreams, on 6/23 at the local Barnes & Noble.
6/17/07 – The
Boston Globe reported on Project STEP, which stands for String Training and Education Program, a program that aims to increase cultural and racial diversity in American orchestras. William Thomas, artistic director of Project STEP, comments: “The program is about realizing that there are many talented youngsters who haven't had the exposure to top training, but have the ability to do great things ... We’re dedicated to finding those who have the talent and providing the education to make a go of a career.” The article continues: “Project STEP, which funds the training for 42 local students, was founded in 1982 because the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Boston University School of Music were having trouble filling vacancies with blacks and Latinos. ‘For two years, we tried to address the problem by increasing notice of the vacancies," says William Moyer, a former BSO trombonist who was instrumental in the founding of Project STEP. ‘So we met with Louis Krasner, an accomplished violinist who was teaching at Tanglewood at the time, and he said, “You’re starting too late; we need to start early, with first-graders’.”
6/17/07 – Pittsburgh violinist Sherry Kloss is profiled in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in conjunction with her upcoming recital dedicated to the memory of Jascha Heifetz.
6/16/07 – The New York Times reports that Barbra Streisand is touring Europe with a 58-piece orchestra composed mostly of the cream of New York’s freelance musicians. “It’s a sweet gig for the players. But beyond that, the tour has created a mild economic boom for the pool of musicians left behind. Many of the Streisand musicians are regulars in Broadway shows like The Lion King, Legally Blonde and The Color Purple, as well as in the American Ballet Theater Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the Westchester Philharmonic. With their absence, somebody has to substitute. And that means opportunities for others, especially younger musicians or players who have yet to crack the regular lists of contractors. Alison Zlotow, a violinist, is quoted as being among the beneficiaries.
6/20/07 – The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on “a series of three highly unusual Philadelphia Orchestra concerts starting Wednesday night. The orchestra is taking single movements of various pieces and stringing them together on single programs. This is something Serious Orchestras generally don’t do ... Performing all nine Beethoven symphonies in 90 minutes by taking one movement from each may not get the Philadelphians respect from the aficionados, but these concerts were not designed for them ... There are legitimate artistic reasons for performing, say, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in its entirety, rather than just the first movement ... But the orchestra has another obligation to Mozart -- to find him an audience. And not just any audience, but the largest one possible. So if the iPod shuffle format led by conductor Rossen Milanov is an effective means of taking the novice by the hand and leading him or her to a larger repertoire, the orchestra is serving a need greater than presenting, yet again, one movement of a Beethoven symphony in context with the other three.”
6/18/07 – According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra will merge under the umbrella organization of the Pasadena Symphony Assn., effective immediately ... Jorge Mester will remain music director of the Pasadena Symphony and lead the orchestra's concerts at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.” Rachael Worby will remain music director of the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, which will change its name to the Pasadena Pops Symphony.”
6/18/07 – Alex Ross, classical music critic of the New Yorker, heard three middle-American orchestras live in two days recently. "Thanks to generous speed limits, I was able to catch a Thursday matinée by the Indianapolis Symphony; a performance that night by the Nashville Symphony; and, the following day, a concert by the Alabama Symphony, in Birmingham. I learned what touring musicians have been saying for years: that lesser-known orchestras can deliver sure-footed, commanding performances, and that the notion of a stratospheric orchestral élite is something of an illusion."
6/18/07 – The Baltimore Business Journal recently profiled that other orchestra in Baltimore: “Eight months ago, officials at the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra were staring at an $80,000 deficit that threatened to bring the music to an end if they did not act quickly. Today, the 35-musician orchestra has expanded its programming for next season, broadened its venues and pumped up its operating budget by 18 percent. Orchestra officials credit the turnaround to a renewed effort by its board members to reach out to individual donors and foundations, while redefining their mission to stand apart musically. The board also reached into its own pockets, contributing one-third of the money needed to operate in the black ... The orchestra is holding seven shows next season, one more than last year.”
6/16/07 – For something unexpected from a classical music critic, read Rocky Mountain News columnist Marc Shulgold’s take on “adorably bad” musicians. He specifically mentions Scotland’s Really Terrible Orchestra and the Portsmouth Sinfonia. But be warned: The article includes an audio file of the notorious, uh, renowned soprano Florence Foster Jenkins assaulting the Queen of the Night aria.
6/15/07 – The American Symphony Orchestra League reports that “orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally may continue to travel with their bows, after winning an exemption during negotiations at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The international community met over the past two weeks to determine whether to include the Brazilian pernambuco tree on the endangered species list. Most fine bows used by string musicians are made from pernambuco wood. Negotiators settled on adding the tree to the endangered species list, but applying the listing only to ‘logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets…’, specifying that finished bows that are transported internationally would not be subject to cumbersome CITES permit and certification requirements.”
Also according to the ASOL, donations of instruments, scores, and musical supplies are being requested for the first Iraqi Summer Arts Academy. The program, taking place next month in the Kurdish region, will bring together more than 250 musicians, including the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, professional and youth orchestras from Erbil and Suleymania, and music students. The program is being organized by the nonprofit American Voices and organizations including the New York-based Musicians for Harmony. Items needed include student-size violins and cellos, scores and parts for string orchestra, youth orchestra and Suzuki method, and supplies. For more information, contact Allegra Klein, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about the summer academy, visit: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=14151.
6/14/07 – The results of the inaugural Stradivarius International Violin Competition are in:
1st Prize: Yoonshin Song, Korea. Prizes include $10,000, a Charles W. Liu Hand Made Violin and a solo appearance with the Utah Symphony (Summer 2008). Song performed on a 1712 Antonio Stradivarius Violin at the Final Concert.
2nd Prize: Andrej Power, Sweden. He wins $5,000.00 and performed on a 1738 Giuseppe Guarneri "Del Gesu" Violin at the Final Concert.
3rd Prize: Sharon Park, USA, $2,500.
4th Prize: Susan Jang, USA. $1,000.
5th Prize: SoJin Kim, Korea. $500.
Mindy Chen of California won the Grand Prize in the Youth Category. She wins $2,000 and a solo appearance in the Gina Bachauer Piano Festival. Liu’s website includes biographies of all winners. Runner-up Power so impressed judges that the Utah Symphony offered him a 2008 engagement as well, reports PlaybillArts.com.
Violinist Sarah Kapustin was recently named First-Prize Winner (Violin) of the International Instrumental Competition Markneukirchen 2007.
6/23/07 – Violinist Vilmos Szabadi will perform a recital at Indiana University with Chih-Yi Chen, piano. The program will include works by Bartok, Mozart and Brahms.
6/18/07 - Manhattan School of Music and the Shanghai Conservatory have joined forces in a distance-learning exchange using Internet2 technology. Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and chair of MSM’s orchestral performance program will lead a violin master class concentrating on orchestral excerpts.
6/14/07 – Violinists took the two top slots at the Irving M. Klein International String Competition in the Bay area. 22-year-old Juilliard student Jing Wang took first place, while 21-year old David McCarroll took second. Wang wins $10,000, plus performances with the Peninsula and Santa Cruz symphonies, a recital in Mexico and at the Ralston Concert series at Notre Dame de Namur University, as well as other venues. The competition’s website includes a list of semifinalists, each of whom won $1,000.
6/14/07 - Nearly five years after Frederic Bednarz’s violin was stolen from a Harvard Square music school, police have found the $24,000 instrument, reports the Boston Herald. “But it’s unclear if police ever plan to charge the crooks involved in the high-profile heist. For Bednarz, a Montreal-born violinist, the return of the pricey 19th-century violin is a case of too little, too late. ‘Well, you know, it’s been such a long time that I’ve dealt with it and bought another violin’, said Bednarz. The insurance company sold Bednarz’s stolen violin at Tarisio auction house last month, according to Chris Reuning, owner of Reuning & Son Violins in Boston. The violin sold at auction for $24,150, said Reuning, one of the founding partners of Tarisio.”
6/14/07 – Violinist Thomas Zehetmair recently undertook a Herculean task: performing all 24 Pagannini caprices in recital, plus sonatas by Ysaye and Berio at the Aldeburgh Festival in England.
6/15/07 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has appointed Leonard Slatkin as its principal guest conductor, succeeding Yan Pascal Tortelier: “Slatkin’s three-year contract engages him for three weeks a season, in which he will conduct a mix of ‘subscription weeks, special projects, domestic tours and other activities.’ He will assume the role next September, the same month Manfred Honeck begins his tenure as music director.”
6/14/07 – The Washington Business Journal reports: “XM Satellite Radio will broadcast eight performances during the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2007-2008 season on one of its three classical music channels, the company and the orchestra announced Thursday ….The series, hosted by XM Classics Program Director Martin Goldsmith, will feature interviews with Music Director Marin Alsop, soloists, musicians and composers.”
6/12/07 – According to the Illinois Pantagraph, the Illinois Symphony Orchestra recently unveiled an ambitious plant for commemorating the 50th anniversary of Cliburn’s world-famous first-place win at the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. “For the first time ever, all six current winners from a Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the premier contest held every four years, will perform with a single orchestra over the course of one season. The first of the celebrated pianists, Chu-Fang Huang, performed at the press conferences Tuesday in Bloomington and Springfield. The remaining five will perform as guest soloists at each of the orchestra’s five Masterworks, which begin in September and continue through April 2008.”
5/25/07 – The Missoulian noted the warm welcome given to the new conductor in town: “As the Missoula Symphony Orchestra's brass quintet played on the lawn of the orchestra's offices on East Main Street on Thursday morning, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered to greet the orchestra's new director, Darko Butorac. The sun shone, the brass band gleamed - but nothing shined as brightly as Butorac's smile when he was introduced to the assembled throng.”
6/11/07 - This week’s big news: After 45 years performing, the Guarneri String Quartet is packing it in.
“The Guarneri String Quartet announced today its plans to retire in 2009. “After 45 years of performing, the group's members — Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley (violins), Michael Tree (viola) and Peter Wiley (cello) — feel that it's time to leave the stage.”
PlaybillArts.com has a brief story, but you can bet there’ll be lots more said in the months and years to come on this important development.
6/9/07 – Eminent London violinist David Juritz has embarked on a five-month odyssey during which he’ll travel 60,000 miles covering 25 countries busking for charity, reports the Times of London. “Juritz, who is regarded as one of the world’s finest violinists, is making the trip to raise £500,000 for charities that bring music to poor children. He will begin his journey tomorrow at Turnham Green Tube station, West London, with nothing but an empty wallet, a rucksack and his 18th-century violin.”
Here’s another take on the same story from Reuters India that clarifies the issue of the violin Juritz will be using: “For the entire enterprise, he will play a violin made for him by a friend with whom he used to busk in South Africa. The highly sought-after 1748 Guadagnini violin he usually plays will be left safely at home. Juritz once spent 20 minutes wrestling with an Italian who grabbed his violin while busking in Florence in 1978 and isn't going to let that happen to such a precious instrument. ‘That's staying here under lock and key’, he said with a chuckle.”
One wonders what Mr. Juritz thinks of Joshua Bell’s and Tamsyn Little’s well-publicized recent attempts at busking…..
Violinist Alexander Kerr has been named principal guest concertmaster at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Kerr will continue on faculty at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and at Aspen Music Festival and School. He is scheduled to appear as ISO concertmaster approximately six times next season. Kerr will share leadership duties with Zach De Pue, the ISO’s newly appointed concertmaster, allowing the latter to maintain an active tour schedule with his trio Time For Three. Before coming to Indianapolis Kerr was concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; he had earlier served as concertmaster of the Cincinnati and Charleston symphony orchestras.
Violinist Jing Zeng has been appointed to the first violin section of the Phoenix Symphony. She is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
6/10/07 – The Deseret (Utah) News reports that Utah luthier Charles Liu is sponsoring the Stradivarius International Violin Competition. “The four-day event will host 71 young violinists from around the state and Intermountain West area, as well as from the rest of the country. There will also be competitors from Canada, Europe and Asia….As it took shape, Liu divided the competition into two large categories. The senior level features violinists between the ages of 17 and 25. For the inaugural competition, 15 young men and women will converge on Salt Lake City to compete for a $10,000 first prize and a solo engagement with the Utah Symphony during the summer of 2008.” The final round will be held on Thursday, June 14, 2007, so check Sunday’s Violin News & Gossip for the results.
6/10/07 - The New Century Chamber Orchestra continues its concertmaster-conductor search, as the group brings in a slew of top violinists to lead the ensemble, notes San Francisco Classical Voice. “The search has also highlighted the concertmaster’s role. Is he/she a conductor? A soloist? A member of the first violin section? A chamber musician? …The fourth and final guest concertmaster for 2006-2007 was Cho-Liang Lin, in a program of two serenades, a contemporary concerto, and a Mozart symphony. Throughout the Sunday afternoon concert in Marin, Lin’s violin could be heard distinctly, his playing full of crisp and resolute articulation. His sound could always be distinguished from the other players based on his attack and personality. In the concerto, this proved ideal. But in the symphony, for example, Lin’s violin could still be heard apart from his section. He did not make the transition from soloist to orchestra member. Aside from that, the concert went well.”
6/8/07 – The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times ran an encouraging story about Joe Ginem, a 16-year-old violinist who suffered bone cancer in his bow arm. Ginem recovered following grueling bouts of chemotherapy and a surgery in which his shoulder ball and socket and upper arm were replaced with a titanium prosthetic. Last week, Ginem was in the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra when it played at Carnegie Hall.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the University of Minnesota School of Music have announced the appointment of Mark Russell Smith as a shared conductor for the two organizations; he will serve as artistic director of orchestral studies at UM and director of new music projects at the SPCO. At the SPCO he will conduct six weeks each season, with a particular focus on contemporary music. Smith remains music director of the Richmond (Va.) Symphony Orchestra, where his current contract runs through the 2008-09 season.
6/24/07 – The Vermont Youth Orchestra will embark on a tour of China. Twenty-five of the group’s musicians are members of “The China Project,” a program created for the VYO by the Young Writer’s Project. Since March, students have attended workshops in writing, photography, videography, audiography and Chinese culture. Their goal is to create a multimedia journal documenting the VYO’s two-week tour of China.
6/12/07 – The Houston Chronicle, reports: “The Houston Symphony and its musicians agreed to a new contract Tuesday that increases the annual minimum salary to $81,900. …Key terms of the symphony contract, which came four months early, are the gradual elimination of the three unpaid furlough weeks each player currently has, plus a modest increase in the minimum weekly salary, or scale, over three years ... The current scale of $1,520 will ultimately increase to $1,575 in 2009-10….The minimum prescribed size of the Houston orchestra remains at 84 members under the new contract. However, the ensemble has been performing with more players and likely will have 87 to 88 members next season.”
6/12/07 – The Jerusalem Post reports: “Budget cuts at the Israel Broadcasting Authority may result in the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra being disbanded. The JSO was founded and is heavily funded by the IBA.” Principal Bassoonist Richard Paley comments: “We thought we were just getting past all the [financial trouble] ... and then we received a letter from [IBA chairman] Moshe Gavish telling us that they were going to cut the budget by 60 percent….Four years ago the JSO was put into receivership due to mismanagement and was in danger of being liquidated. It was saved by Leon Botstein, who accepted the position of music director and formed the American Friends of the JSO to raise funds. Botstein worked for free because the salary he was offered wouldn’t have even covered his traveling expenses, he said. As part of the JSO’s recovery program, orchestra members accepted a voluntary 20% pay cut. The JSO is set to celebrate its 70th anniversary next year.”
6/7/07 – According to the Niagara Falls Review (ON), the Niagara Symphony must raise $500,000 by mid-June to avoid bankruptcy. “As the five-week emergency fundraiser for the Niagara Symphony strives to meet its ambitious goal, individuals across the region are helping the organization inch toward survival. The symphony launched its fundraising campaign May 10, citing a fall in donations for its $100,000 debt. The symphony has garnered $100,000 in donations, through concerts, outdoor performances and community donations, chairman David Randall said. The symphony is asking all levels of government for a total of $100,000, but they are not banking on that commitment, Randall said.
6/9/07 - Bella Hristova of Bulgaria is the winner of the 2007 Michael Hill International Violin Competition. First prize includes NZ$40,000, a CD recording on the Naxos label for worldwide distribution, and a winner’s tour of New Zealand in 2008.
“Second Prize of NZ$10,000 went to 25 year old Yuuki Wong; Third Prize of NZ$5,000 went to 27 year old Stefan Hempel. The prize of NZ$2,500 for the semi-finalist who had the best performance of Ross Harris’s composition Fanitullen, a piece specially commissioned for the Competition, was won by Yuuki Wong. Celeste Golden (United States) won Fourth Prize; Noah Geller (United States) won Fifth Prize; and Can Gao (China) won Sixth Prize. Kinga Augustyn of Poland was awarded the use of the Riccardo Bergonzi violin for the next two years.”
6/6/07 – For more on the issue of noise control in British orchestras, read what Norman Lebrecht has to say in La Scena Musicale: “The noise issue began rumbling a decade ago when woodwind players complained that modern brass instruments were getting louder. The Musicians Union took the matter up with the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) which, in 2001, commissioned a survey of 400 players by Alison Wright-Reed, an ex-BBC workplace expert, and staged a seminar on the South Bank. Wright-Reed discovered tinnitus – a ringing in the ears - in 42 percent of woodwind players and a high incidence of temporary hearing loss after extremely loud passages.
“Orchestras took note and acted promptly. Ten bands held training days and formed dedicated noise teams to monitor progress. Earplugs are issued routinely on request and the seating ramp of the brass is often raised so that their noise goes literally over the heads of the rest. In rehearsal, the blare is contained behind screens….”
6/13/07 – Among several guest appearances at the Mainly Mozart festival in La Jolla, California, Cleveland Orchestra Concertmaster William Preucil will perform a double violin recital with his daughter, Alexandra Preucil, and Kirill Gerstein, piano.
6/8/07 – Violinists EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks and Laraine Kaizer performed Bach's Double Violin Concerto at the 2007 Peoria (Ill.) Bach Festival, reports the Peoria Journal Star. “Holmes-Hicks, 24, recently participated in a workshop with the world-famous Kronos Quartet, performing in Carnegie Hall. Kaizer, 31, who has a doctorate in violin performance, is also pursuing a new calling as a painter while she seeks out performance opportunities in Arizona.”
6/7/07 – Earlier in the week, I posted a link to a blog entry in The Telegraph (UK) that opined on the fate of Robert King, newly convicted pedophile. I meant to also include a link to a news story; here’s one on PlaybillArts.com: “Robert King, founder and director of the ensemble The King's Consort and a major figure in the period-instrument movement, has been convicted by a London jury of 14 incidents of indecent assault over an 11-year period and sentenced to almost four years in prison.”
6/6/07 – The Cincinnati Enquirer includes an op-ed by Gabriel Pegis, principal second violinist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Pegis writes: “In her ‘Your voice’ column ‘Why bother saving dying classical music?’ (May 30), Catherine Vermeersch raises several points that need to be disputed ... In her statement that classical music is ‘ethnocentric,’ I think she demonstrates ignorance of both the makeup of performing groups and the role of the modern symphony orchestra. If we use the Cincinnati Symphony as an example, you'll find, yes, white males. But, you will also find many, many women, Asians and African-Americans ... Regarding her conclusion that classical music has been dying for 100 years, consider the great composers in this ‘dying’ era. Did Stravinsky contribute to classical music’s slow death? Or Prokofiev? Or Copland? Even Bernstein has only been gone less than 20 years. …There’s plenty of life left in classical music here in Cincinnati.”
6/4/07 - Tony Woodcock officially took office as President of New England Conservatory, following a year of interim service by President Emeritus Laurence Lesser. Woodcock, with a background as an orchestra administrator, has been at NEC since April, getting to know the school.
6/3/07 – The New York Times ran a profile of Andrea Mosconi, a 75-year-old Cremonese museum worker who plays Stradivarius, Amati, and Guarneri stringed instruments to keep them in good condition. Karl Roy, a German violin maker, tells Fisher: “The wood gets tired ... It’s the same way as with a human being. If you just sit and rest in your comfortable chair, when you get up after a while you will feel crazy.” Fisher adds that “collections of instruments made by Stradivari and other top violins around the world are all played regularly,” writing that Mosconi plays each instrument “for six or seven minutes. He starts with scales and arpeggios, then something more substantial, on a recent day one of Bach’s partitas for the violin.” When asked if he enjoys his job, Mosconi replies: “It’s a difficult question. I don’t really know ... Everyone says I am lucky. But every coin has two faces.”
6/2/07 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted the death of conductor and violinist Donald Johanos, who was staff conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1970-79, “He died in Naples, Fla. on May 29 after a long battle with kidney and congestive heart failure. He was 79.” Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Johanos received an undergraduate degree in violin performance and a master’s in music theory from the Eastman School of Music, “but it was the performance certificate in conducting he got there that had the greatest impact on him.” He soon began conducting the Altoona and Johnstown symphonies. Johanos was named music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1962. He became music director of the Honolulu Symphony in 1979, “and is credited with improving it musically before he retired in 1995.”
6/12/07 – The New England Conservatory's Youth Philharmonic Orchestra will embark on an 18-day tour of China. With performances in a dozen cities throughout the country, the tour begins with a concert June 15 at Beijing's Poly Theater and ends on June 29 at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre.
6/7/07 – The Kansas City Star reports: “The Kansas City Symphony and its musicians have ratified a contract that will provide a 19 percent salary increase over the next four years. After two of the most successful seasons of its history, the symphony announced Tuesday that it would increase the players’ current base pay of $40,661 to $42,840 for the 2007-2008 season, a 5 percent raise. Incremental increases will push the salary to $50,005 in 2010-2011, the symphony’s first full season in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which is under construction. ... The contract also provides for modest increases in health benefits, disability benefits, life insurance and family health care. It also creates guidelines for more flexibility in scheduling of rehearsals, recordings and special projects.”
6/6/07 – But farther South, trouble looms, reports the San Antonio Express News: “The San Antonio Symphony’s musicians have voted to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike if no new agreement has been reached when the current labor contract expires on Aug. 31 ... The two sides have agreed to meet with Michael McMillion of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to try to bridge their differences ... Under the current contract, base salary this season is $1,000 a week for 26 weeks. Under the musicians’ latest offer, base minimum salary would be $1,000 a week for 28 weeks in the first year of the next contract and rise to $1,060 a week for 30 weeks in the third year. Management has offered slightly more weekly pay, but for only 26 weeks each year. Both offers are predicated on maintaining the current size of the orchestra, 72 musicians.” The paper “Both sides have agreed in principle to an electronic media guarantee that, in exchange for $30 a week per musician, would let the symphony broadcast recordings of its concerts on South Texas radio stations.”
6/6/07 - "Cleveland Orchestra music director Franz Welser-Most will become music director of the Vienna State Opera at the start of the 2010-2011 season, even as he continues his duties in Cleveland," reports The Plain Dealer (Cleveland).
6/6/07 – There will be no charges in the now-infamous Boston Pops brawl, according to the Boston Globe. "Boston police threw both men out of Symphony Hall but did not arrest them. The incident made national news, and a few days later the police department reversed its decision not to pursue charges and assigned a detective to investigate." That investigation will now be considered closed.
6/6/07 - Bloomberg.com reports: “Austrian authorities recovered a Stradivari violin belonging to a top violinist and worth at least 2.5 million euros ($3.4 million) after police raided a Vienna house used by six Georgian suspects to stash stolen loot. ‘We’re just happy to be able to return the instrument to our star violinist in undamaged condition,’ Interior Minister Guenther Platter said at a press conference today in the Austrian capital. He returned the 327-year-old instrument to Christian Altenburger ... The Georgian gang was involved in at least 21 other house robberies in Vienna and had stolen jewels, art works and liquor, police said. The Stradivari, along with a Vuillaume violin, were stolen from Altenburger's apartment in May ... Police found the suspected thieves after they tried shipping some of the stolen goods in a suitcase taken from Altenburger's apartment.”
6/4/07 - The top six semi-finalists of the 2007 Michael Hill International Violin Competition have been announced in New Zealand. They are:
Can Gao (China)
Noah Geller (USA)
Celeste Golden (USA)
Stefan Hempel (Germany)
Bella Hristova (Bulgaria)
Yuuki Wong (Singapore)
The jury consists of Pierre Amoyal (France/Switzerland), Justine Cormack (New Zealand), Pamela Frank (United States), Mark Kaplan (United States), Boris Kuschnir (Russia/Austria), Hu Kun (China/United Kingdom), and Dene Olding (Australia). The first prize is NZ$40,000, a CD recording on the Naxos label and a winner’s tour in 2008. Second prize is NZ$10,000, and third prize is NZ$5,000. A prize of NZ$2,500 is awarded to the semi-finalist who has the best performance of Fanitullen, a work composed for the competition.
6/15/07 - The EDU Quartet, featuring V.commer Samuel Thompson on first violin, will perform in recognition of the Elgar sesquicentennial on the Fazioli Salon Series in Chicago. The performance, a repeat of a June 13 program, will be broadcast on WFMT-FM 98.7.
6/10/07 - the US-based Shanghai String Quartet will play Western arrangements of Chinese melodies in Shanghai, reports the Shanghai Daily. “The quartet will play Chinese folk songs including Yao Dance, Shepherd's Song and Harvest Celebration, arranged for string quartet by one of its members, violinist Jiang Yiwen in Shanghai.” The concert also includes works by Beethoven and Brahms. Interestingly, the article notes that this appearance marks the group’s first in its namesake city in nine years. The quartet is ensemble-in-residence at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
6/9/07 - National Arts Centre Orchestra violinist Jessica Linnebach will present a performance/lecture as the final event in its popular Saturday morning "Behind the Music" series of the 2006-07 season. She will will perform on the 1700 Taft Stradivarius violin, which she won the loan of through the latest Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank Competition.
6/5/07 – According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Salvatore ‘Sal’ Silipigni, of Bradenton, Fla., formerly of Mt. Lebanon, died Friday, April 20, 2007, at his home after a massive stroke. He was 79 ... Mr. Silipigni received a bachelor’s degree in music from Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Over the years, he played in numerous orchestras, including the Rochester Philharmonic, the Muncie Symphony, the San Diego Symphony and finally the PSO. He retired from the PSO, after 27 years, in the 1999-2000 season. He also taught music at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and Duquesne University, Uptown.”
6/4/07 - British Early Music specialist Robert King faces four years in prison for “assaulting underage boys,” reports The Telegraph (UK). Igor Toronyi-Lalic regrets the loss: "Above all, however, he provided me with some of the most intense musical experiences I've ever had and, for me - though obviously not the courts - these and his golden recordings have put him beyond reproach. He was also about the only person in Classical Music who, when he opened his mouth, could actually be funny. He was the supreme raconteur and always had the audiences in the palm of his hand."
6/3/07 - The Houston Chronicle reports that violinist Yoonshin Song won fourth prize in the 2007 Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition. “First prize went to 22-year-old pianist Kwan Yi, who wins $5,000 and a concert date in July with the Houston Symphony under Music Director Hans Graf. Horn player Kevin Rivard won second-place honors and snagged the ‘audience-choice’ award, voted on by ballot at the concert in Rice University’s Stude Concert Hall and online by listeners of KUHF. Third prize went to cellist Dane Johansen.”
The June 2007 issue of Cleveland Magazine ran an overview of the current status of the Cleveland Orchestra and its role in the civic identity of Cleveland: “The Cleveland Orchestra is in a financial crisis, and the plan to fix it isn’t going as well as anticipated. Can one of Cleveland’s most beloved institutions (even by those who’ve never seen the inside of Severance Hall) recover?”
6/2/07 – According to the Modesto Bee (CA), the Modesto Symphony Orchestra has appointed David Lockington as its new music director. “A native of Great Britain, Lockington will continue to live in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he has served as music director of [the Grand Rapids Symphony] since 1999 ... The orchestra’s 10-member search committee chose Lockington by unanimous vote, said Bev Finley, chairwoman of the committee and the orchestra board.”
6/1/07 - "Contract talks between the Omaha Symphony and its musicians have broken down, reports KETV (Omaha, NE): “According to a release from the Omaha Symphony Musicians Organization, negotiations ended May 31 without an agreement and no further talks were scheduled... The musicians rejected the Symphony Association's proposed 2.5 percent salary increase for the 2007 contract. [Another complaint is that] musicians are not provided benefits on par with those provided to the Omaha Symphony administrative staff." …According to the release, the musicians will complete the season's performances as scheduled. But orchestra members plan to demonstrate their unity during performances June 1-2 and at the Johnny Mathis concert June 9. Musicians will distribute leaflets and wear red, white and blue ‘unity’ ribbons on stage.”
5/30/07 – Well, the Philadelphia Orchestra emerges the winner: “After a highly unusual year spent shuttling between principal horn gigs in St. Louis and Philadelphia, Jennifer Montone has informed the St. Louis Symphony that she will be officially departing the orchestra in order to spend full time in her now-tenured chair in the Philadelphia Orchestra.” (St. Louis Today)
Other Music News
Musical America reports that the venerable classical music critic Peter G. Davis has been fired from New York magazine. "In recent years, and especially since Adam Moss has been the editor, the magazine's classical music coverage has dwindled considerably. It also marks the third time New York has fired a longtime, senior critic, raising the question of serious age discrimination. Dance critic Tobi Tobias was axed four years ago, after 22 years at the magazine, theater critic John Simon was let go on the eve of his 80th birthday two years ago, after 37 years. He was replaced by a 28-year-old theater critic…. This marks the third major classical music critic to lose his job in the last month. Reorganization and/or cutbacks at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune have seen the position of classical music critic disappear. At this time, neither Pierre Ruhe at the former nor Michael Anthony at the latter is clear on what they will be doing at the paper, only that their positions have been eliminated.”
6/5/07 – The Washington Post reports on WETA-FM: “Since dropping news and talk programming for classical music in January, the Arlington public station has seen its fortunes soar. Ratings have more than doubled since the switchover from BBC and NPR reports to Bach and Brahms concertos. And perhaps just as important to WETA (90.9 FM), pledge contributions from listeners have been gushing. WETA’s strong showing in the first four months of the year likely reflects the death of WGMS-FM, the station that called it quits in January after 60 years as Washington’s commercial classical station. WETA, owned by a nonprofit foundation, coordinated its format change with WGMS's expiration, becoming the sole classical outlet on the local airwaves. The station's early success suggests that classical music isn't dead as a radio format ... WETA captured 4.9 percent of the radio audience in Washington during the first quarter, up from 2.1 percent in the preceding three months, when WETA was a news-talk station. Those numbers make WETA the region's fifth most popular station.”
5/30/07 – Norman LeBrecht opines in La Scena Musicale about teen British composer Alex Prior. “[He] is what used be to be called a child prodigy and is now regarded as a freak of nature. Were his gift of the sporting kind, he would be playing in gold studs at Wembley or Wimbledon and grinning from roadside hoardings from here to Calcutta. But modern times are suspicious of precocity and feel threatened by junior genius."
Last night, I had the pleasure of hearing Siberian violinist Vadim Repin perform the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. On all levels, it was a thoroughly satisfying performance—Repin’s playing was alternately sinuous and athletic, where appropriate.
In the evening’s other work, the Brahms Symphony No. 1, concertmaster Robert Chen’s solo in the second movement was all it should be: a clear, sweet tone soaring over the orchestra.
A posting on RWD Magazine’s website profiles Adaggio, a British/Guyanese violinist and composer. “By now, the crowd of rowdy revellers inside London’s CC Club are standing still. Their gaze is firmly fixed toward the stage as a young man begins his performance. …Resting on the 24 year-old’s chin is a pristine Italian violin that seems just as foreign in a place like this as does to its owner, who is dressed in baggy jeans and polo shirt. Bowing away over instrumentals from Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo and Jammer proves to be the winning formula and people at the popular nightspot go ballistic.”
6/10/07 – Speaking of Chicago Symphony concertmaster Robert Chen, he will close out the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis’ 2006-2007 concert season with a recital. Chen was a semi-finalist in the 1994 IVCI. This Concertmaster Recital is an annual feature of the Laureate Series, bringing concertmasters from the world's top orchestras to Indianapolis to perform.
6/3/07 – The Aurora Beacon News reports that violinist/violist Drew Lecher, will lead a master class and book signing at 2 p.m. Sunday at Sapp Violins in Montgomery, Ill. He will also sign copies of his new books, Violin Technique: The Manual and Viola Technique: The Manual. Lecher is the Director/Founder of the Stradivari Ensemble of Chicago
6/3/07 - Violinist Joshua Hong, concertmaster of the Conejo Valley (Calif.) Youth Orchestra, will solo with that orchestra. The 17-year-old lives in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
6/1/07 - Violinist John Lambros, who served as concertmaster of the West Virginia Symphony for 55 years, composed a work to be performed today by the orchestra, reports the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. Although Lambros composed his Inaugural March 45 years ago, he only recently submitted it to the orchestra’s conductor, Grant Cooper, for consideration. Even at age 88, Lambros maintains a vigorous schedule that includes teaching 30 students.
5/31/07 - Violinist Alec Hou and his daughter, violinist Yi-Ja 'Susanne' Hou, are the subjects of a short documentary by the CBC. Called Shanghai Sensation, the 17-minute video tells the story of Alec and his flight from China almost three decades ago in the face of Mao's Cultural Revolution. The Mississauga News reports that Hou eventually fled to Canada and settled in Mississauga. The documentary also captures Hou’s first concert in China in 25 years, which included his daughter performing with him as soloist. Susanne Hou now performs on a 1729 ex-Heath Guarneri del Gesu violin that she received from the Canada Council For The Arts' music competition. To watch the video, visit www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/arts/shanghai_sensation_1.html.
An interview on CBC Radio One can be heard by visiting www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2007/200705/20070525.html.
5/25/07 – Violinist Joshua Bell wrapped up his three-year stay as a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra artistic partner. His final performances included performances of the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 and stints leading the orchestra from the concertmaster’s chair.
6/19/07 - The Oakland (Calif.) Youth Orchestra will depart for a five-concert tour of Crete and Greece, with concerts scheduled in Heraklion, Chania, Delphi, Athens, and Patras. Performances will be under the baton of OYO Artistic Director Michael Morgan. The Oakland Youth Orchestra includes 82 students from more than 30 cities throughout the Bay Area.
6/4/07 - The Chicago Sinfonietta’s contributions in the area of diversity will be honored during the third annual World Diversity Leadership Summit, taking place June 4-6 at the United Nations in New York. The summit gathers senior corporate executives, experts, and policymakers focused on global and local diversity management practices. This year’s conference, “Globalization and Diversity: Unleashing the Power of Diverse Workers, Suppliers and Customers,” will consider the impact of diversity in areas such as academia, global supply chains, major international cities, customers, and the arts.
6/1/07 – The Times of London reports: “Orchestras may be asked to rehearse and even to perform more quietly under new health and safety regulations ... Regulations controlling the amount of noise permitted in workplaces came into force last year for most industries. They limited the daily average exposure to 85 decibels. Music and entertainment were given an extra two years to adapt and a working party was formed to draw up guidelines for the sector. It includes English National Opera, the Royal Opera House, the Association of British Orchestras, Equity, the Health and Safety Executive and the Musicians' Union. Public consultation on their recommendations will begin next month.” The article adds: “Thorben Dittes, projects manager at the Association of British Orchestras, said: ‘The most important issue is that we get to protect our players’ hearing. There are a whole range of measures in which this can be achieved.’ ”
5/31/07 – The Capital Times in Madison, Wisc., reports on an unusual fundraiser for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras: “What can you do with old, unplayable violins? Give them to visual artists who can transform them into art objects to raise money so young people can play real violins - and other instruments.”
5/31/07 – According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra has tapped Boston-based musician Jeffrey Rink to lead the orchestra as its first fulltime conductor and music director in its 20-year history. “Rink is currently the music director of Chorus pro Musica in Boston and of the Newton Symphony Orchestra, as well as director of orchestral activities at the Longy School of Music, where he conducts the Longy Chamber Orchestra. He is also on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Previously, he was conductor of the New England Philharmonic for eight years.”
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